Have you heard of the Peter Principle? It goes like this:
If you perform well in your job, you’ll likely be promoted. You’ll then continue to rise up your organisation’s ladder until you reach a point where you are no longer capable to perform well. Which is where you will stay.
While not everyone in your organisation might be acquainted with this principle’s name, everyone knows the principle itself! In fact, many refer to it with malicious joy when offloading their fustrations about their incapable leader.
With this Sword of Damocles hanging over their head, no wonder that self-aware high performers don’t celebrate the promotion to leading their very first team without trepidation.
And if they are wise, they seek help.
Luckily, more and more companies support their budding people managers through coaching programmes.
And when coaching them, I have often heard:
I am used to ensure the success of all of my projects by giving my very best. I simply put in the thought and hours to make sure I succeed.
Now I have to delegate. And that is way outside of my comfort zone.
What if my new team does not put in the effort needed to make this project a success?
How can I make sure they prioritize this project as much as I do?
It’s important to help budding leaders build the leadership skills that allow them to excel in their jobs. Otherwise a lot of potential simply gets wasted.
And leadership is learnt.
It is neither taught by a management book, nor is it genetic gift.
When you promote people into leadership positions, you therefore need to support them in growing into people leaders. Coaching can be one great way of supporting them to learn by doing and reflecting.
Here’s one thing I often do in one of the first few coaching sessions with clients who wonder how to motivate their new team members.
We start with the leader, to be precise, we drill down to their deepest Why:
Why is the success of this project important to them?
What’s driving their ambition, beyond and underneath the obvious wish to prove themselves in their new position?
We go on digging deeper until we hit the sweet spot that makes the client come alive: the ultimate purpose of their work (and life).
Once, leaders connect to what truly matters to them, I send them out to talk to their people and find out what rocks each and everyone’s boat.
Some do that in individual conversations with each of their team members. Others use a fast and playful tool for having these conversations with the whole team. From these conversations about everyone’s individual Why, a shared purpose arises, shaped by the leader, and with the contribution of every team member.
Each time I send them out to be interested in their team member’s deepest motivators, my clients come back not just wiser, but also in stronger relationship with the team.
And a good relationship makes it much easier for them to trust, delegate, and to drive results.
And a good relationship to others starts with a sense of who we are and what we want to create in the world.
When leaders are driven by purpose and invest in relationship, they need not fall victim to the Peter Principle.